By staff writer Court Sullivan
I live in Atlanta, a city well-known for having a very low cost of living as far as big cities go. Having been to places like New York City, LA, and San Francisco, this is something I can really appreciate. I am happy to be able to rent an apartment with a non-communal bathroom for under $2000, eat a bloody steak dinner in the dark for under $45, purchase a mocha latte with Irish creme flavoring syrup at Starbucks for under $8, ride the subway home without being bombed for under $2, and please a homeless man with a chewed piece of Juicy Fruit gum (which, as you know, loses all it's flavor after approximately 13 seconds, and steadily deteriorates into a small piece of tire rubber from there).
I have even lived in cheaper cities though. I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, where on outlying farms, the price of cotton fluctuates depending on how many slaves survived the last voyage from the Ivory Coast. Some days a t-shirt costs $14, other days you can steal a load of laundry off the sun-baked veranda of your nearest plantation while a heavy-set white man sips a fresh glass of lemonade with his eyes closed, nodding off into Confederate bliss. Not to mention, there are plenty of Big Lots closeout stores, TJ Maxx brand name rip-off stores, Old Country Buffet fine dining restaurants, and no-cover strip clubs where strippers dance for hometown respect. There are certainly no toll roads, no maitre d's, and no restaurant valets.
But HARK, I have found the ultimate city of cheapness. A city that practically thrives on barter-based transactions and hand-written IOU's. A city that somehow avoids poverty, yet allows those living on wages below the poverty line to thrive. That city, my friends, is Athens, Georgia. Home to 85% of drunk drivers, and 175,000 annoying Georgia Bulldog fans.
So what is it that makes Athens so cheap? Let's see, how can I put this in terms we all understand….
Anywhere you can skip the entire pre-game step of the night, go straight to the bars, drink with consistency and regularity from 9pm-2am, and then squint down at the end of the night to see your tab come out to under $20 is nothing short of the City of God (note that New York City is the Temple of Doom). Jesus might even be living somewhere in the suburbs, as long as they have a classy wine bar.
Anywhere a taxi driver bargains HIMSELF down from a double to a single digit fare because he's lonely in his stretch Club Wagon van without your group of 15, you know you have entered a Utopian society. Go ahead and puke on the window, that's included in the fare. There are no blind spots in Utopia.
Anywhere you can go to a late-night diner and act out repeatedly in an obnoxious and disgustingly intoxicated manner, only to have the waitress serve you another PBR tall-boy and chili-cheese fries, then hand you a check amounting to less than the change in your pocket from the $20 bill you used at the bar, and THEN smile and thank you as you count off her tip in pennies, careful to save a few and substitute a piece of chewed-up Juicy Fruit, you know you've just eaten your way through a meal laced with her saliva and/or other bodily fluids. But more importantly, you've also just defied the law of economics which states that the price of goods sold and services performed must be greater than or equal to the amount of money which may or may not be found in the return slot of the nearest pay phone. Congratulations, Alan Greenspan would be proud. If he wasn't 185 years old.
Anywhere you can walk out of a liquor store and the only percentage added to your receipt is a negative number because the city voted to cut taxes by instituting an 8% DISCOUNT on alcohol, you know you've either entered an Indian reservation or a city run by its only university's SGA.
Anywhere you can remain so intoxicated that you have to leave your car downtown all weekend in a 15-minute metered parking space labeled "Tow Away Zone – Strictly Enforced" and then pick it up on Monday afternoon, only to have a $3 parking ticket with a smiley face drawn on and a note from the parking enforcement officer saying, "You know better than that! Next time I'll have to spank you!" you know you've entered some weird dimension of Heaven—perhaps the Angel4Virgin S&M room. All the same, it's time for you to leave the city. Jesus can finally afford to move intown from the suburbs on his 25 A.D. carpentry salary (not adjusted for inflation), and you're afraid prices will go up on account of all the tourists.